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CDD Participates in the Georgetown University Disparities Leadership Academy this Summer

Aimee Day, Project Coordinator and certified Person-Center Thinking trainer, attended the Georgetown University Disparities Leadership Academy this past June in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Along with the Texas Center on Disability Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, and Disability Rights Texas, the Center on Disability and Development formed state groups that participated in the training as a team. Texas was one of six different states represented at the Academy. 

Day reported, “initially, my expectations were that it was going to be me learning more about being more inclusive and how to create a program that is inclusive for everyone. And, how I can be an agent of change locally.” When asked to describe the training, Day mentioned, “there was a LOT of self-discovery about biases that I didn’t even realize that I held. It was about learning my own ‘mental models’ that I had and how they influence my work. And, so it was learning how to self-identify when I am making an assumption based on my own mental model and how that can hinder my work. The training taught me how to manage my mental models so that they support my leadership work and can help guide me to addressing disparities.” 

When asked what types of disparities were discussed, Day mentioned that racial, ability, sexual orientation, gender, and  religion were all discussed. Aimee mentioned “although we discussed disparities and culture, our training was mainly focused on being effective leaders, of which addressing disparities was a huge component.” 

She went on, “one of the most profound things that I got out of the training was when we were asked to discuss our top ten values that guide our way of life – including work and personal – and so we had to pair them down to the top 3, which was difficult to do. And, so one of the things we learned was when there is conflict at work, it is usually due to conflicting values. So, as a state team, we discussed everyone’s values so we could see how our values conflicted or were shared. For example, my value on wanting to be thorough could clash with my team member’s value to be quick. Our values were ‘bumping’ but we were able to identify potential hazards within our values bumping together and how we can promote effective conflict resolution.” Day went on to explain the importance of communication and making an effort to learn from and understand other’s points of views. 

Aimee left the Academy with a Leadership Declaration in which she made a commitment to “using adaptive work to help build a common ground with my team so that we can empower diverse individuals with disabilities and their families to hold positions of leadership in Texas.” She plans on applying what she learned both in her professional and personal life. She mentioned that this training brought about an awareness and that she realized that she was not actively addressing disparities in the workplace prior to attending the Academy. She mentioned that in the past she had utilized “Technical Work,” which is seen as “surface level” change such as adding a person with a disability as an advisory member or translating materials.  Day made a commitment to utilizing the principals within adaptive work, which will lead to more significant changes in individual’s values, attitudes, and behaviors. 

Aimee will be sharing more of the knowledge gained as well as selected activities with the Center staff in the coming months. We look forward to learning more about disparities and how we as Center can work as a team to become aware of and address disparities both in our professional and personal lives.